Morality For The Modern Millennium

Bible Book: 1 Thessalonians  4 : 1-8
Subject: Morality; Christian Living
Series: Ready to Live - Ready to Leave
Introduction

Is there such a thing as an absolute moral right or good? Are people correct who say? "You can’t legislate morality." Certainly you are aware that a majority of Americans no longer believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth or absolute right or  wrong. Although most Americans say they want guidance from God or the Bible, few believe in moral absolutes. Most people today believe that there are very few moral absolutes; they think that what is right or wrong varies from situation to situation. When asked to agree or disagree with this statement in a recent Gallup poll, only 27% of American adults rejected the statement while almost 70% thought it was true. More significantly, a majority of those responding to the survey (70%) claimed to believe that it is important when choosing between right and wrong to follow what God or the Bible says. However, of this group, 63% did not accept the notion of absolute moral values. The poll was conducted for Americans United for Life. "Although most Americans." National & International Religion Report, Apr 6, 1992. Page 8.

Even if you haven’t read the latest polls, surely you have observed modern American behavior enough to know that we have lost our way and have wandered into a moral morass, a cesspool of corrupt conduct. About 40 years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger, one time head of the Army Psychiatric Division, wrote a book entitled, "What Ever Happened To Sin?" The good doctor warned way back then that we were headed for trouble because we no longer viewed aberrant behavior as sinful. Modern thinkers had begun to explain every evil activity as simply a flaw of culture or socially induced malfeasance. Menninger sought to set off an alarm, a message of caution. He was saying that what we really needed was the church altar where people could repent, be forgiven and get a new start. The book was widely read, but insufficiently inculcated. The result is that we have continued to slide down a slippery slope of sinful self-indulgence.

The attitude of the average person today is, 'I will do what I please.' Like the people in the days of the Judges, in the Old Testament times, we have a generation of which it may be said, "Each man does what he thinks is right in his own eyes." And, what exactly has this led to? A generation of Americans who will kill each other over a parking space at the mall. A generation of children who are shooting each other in our communities – as young as six years old. A generation savaged by sexually transmitted diseases. A generation of people who are pulling scams to bilk honest people our of their money at a rate so rapid that the government is adding manpower to investigate and stop the robbery. We have a generation so morally bankrupt that the lead story on the news is one which would not have been mentioned just 30 years ago.

But most people today think these moral issues are small matters and do not effect them personally. Often, that which appears to be insignificant may in fact be critical. For example, several years ago, a stunt man named Bobby Leach went over Niagara Falls in a specially designed steel drum and lived to tell about it. He did suffer some minor injuries, but he survived because he recognized the tremendous dangers involved in the feat and did everything he could do to protect himself from harm. A few years after his plunge over the falls he was going down a street in New Zealand and he slipped on an orange peeling, fell, and fractured his leg. He was taken to the hospital where he eventually died from complications to his fall. Bobby Leach found more danger on the sidewalk than he did in drum going over the great Niagara Falls. Mr. Leach's experience illustrates an important spiritual lesson. Often the greatest threats to our spiritual lives are things that we usually consider small or insignificant.

Today I want to share with you something very important for the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ to hear. Please listen carefully, for judgment begins at the House of God. We need to review this morning the plan of God for moral behavior. We have never been in greater need of understanding why moral standards and practices are consequential and critical than at this present time. I am going to share with you five facts regarding the magnitude of moral behavior.

I. There is an Absolute Moral Authority

We have to begin at the beginning – with absolute moral authority. Now I can prove to you that everyone believes in an absolute moral authority that there are unquestionable rights and wrongs. Even those who answer surveys stating that they do not believe in absolute moral authority – meaning a set of rights and wrongs which transcend society and culture.

Imagine with me that an atheist is robbed. Someone comes into his home and robs him. He arrives at home to find his belongings taken or scattered everywhere. He is outraged. He calls the police. He calls for a full investigation. He wants the crooks caught and prosecuted. Why? He believes that what they did is wrong? Who told him it was wrong? The police? No, he knew it before they got there. It was in his heart. He knows that it is wrong for someone to take something that belongs to another. He believes in an absolute moral authority.

Lets go a step further, since someone might argue that this is a legal, criminal matter and there is an authority over the issue – namely the criminal law and law enforcement. So, look at another example.

Lets say that the same man is trying to get a job. Someone else applies for the job and tells the employer bad things about the atheist. The non-believer would immediately be angered and furious at the person who told evil things about him.

Or, let me go one step further. Lets say that the same atheist is watching a ball game and sees the umpire make a bad call. He leaps to his feet and complains vehemently because the umpire did not call the play the way it should have been called. Why is he so angry? Because he says the call was unfair. He is acknowledging that there are rights and wrongs.

In fact, this same man would acknowledge many rights and wrongs which are inside his heart and mind. Now, here is the question. Where did these laws come from? How does he know that it is wrong to lie? How does he know that it is wrong to take things which belong to other people? After all, if we are just biological accidents, if the survival of the fittest is the rule of the earth, more power to the one who can take your things from you. Right? Wrong!!! The atheist knows that isn't true and you know that is not true.

Yes, there are absolutes! Yes, there is an absolute moral authority. That authority is God Himself! Now, in the passage before us, Paul is reminding Christians that we are not to engage in sexual sin. He is telling us not to live in lust. What is lust? Lust by definition is the desire to satisfy God-given needs and desires in an ungodly way. It does not matter how many people commit this sin, this breaking of God’s moral law, the fact that it is a law is not diminished one bit. Some might say that something cannot be wrong if everyone does it. How foolish. That is a childish argument. A child tells his mom that he only did a wrong deed because other boys did it. That does not make it less offensive or wrong. So we being by acknowledging that there is an absolute authority over human life. We all know it. We all act out of that knowledge with our attitudes everyday.

Actually, people reject the idea of authority and absolutes because they want to be free of restraint. They don’t understand that everything God ever commanded to us was actually done for us not to us! In fact, people do not reject the Bible because it contradicts itself, they reject the Bible because it contradicts them!!! Yes, there is an absolute right and an absolute wrong. And let me tell you something, right is right if everyone on earth is against it; and wrong is wrong if everyone on earth is for it! We could have a vote tomorrow on the nature of gravity and every American could vote to repeal that law, but it would not change anything. The same is true for those things that are morally right and morally wrong. All the votes in the world don’t change the facts.

II. Absolute Authority Rests in the One Who Has It

Authority rests in the one who has it, the one to whom it has been given. Take a coach of a sports team. The coach can take a player out and put another in the game. The player may not like it, but he can’t change it. Why? Because the coach is the final authority. You can carry this same thought over to your employer. Again, you can take this thought forward to the principal at your child’s school. When one has been given authority, he or she may act on that authority.

Who is the ultimate authority in this world? Let see what the Bible says about that. Jesus is the last, absolute authority. Look at Matthew 28:18. We are to recognize the authority of the Lord in our lives in all matters.

I read an amusing story some time ago about a minister who received a call from a church that offered him a salary four times what he was then receiving. Being a devout man, he spent much time in prayer trying to discern what God wanted him to do. One day a friend met the minister's son on the street. He asked, "Do you know what your dad is going to do?"

The boy's answer was, "Well, Dad's praying, but Mom's packing!"

Now that is a joke, of course. But how often we act just like that. Since God is in charge, then we must live under His authority. In moral matters this pertains to our actions. In Spiritual matters, it refers to our reactions.

III. Violating Absolute Authority will bring Negative Results

Matthew 7:24-29. Here we note that Jesus speaks as one having Authority and tells the people that those who hear His words and do not put them into practice are building on sand that will one day wash from beneath the structure they have erected.

Now some people think that personal sin does not effect others. Some say, "As long as I am not hurting someone else, it is no one’s business what I do." What a misguided statement. Sin does not exist in a vacuum. My sin hurts you and your sins hurts me.

Paul uses the example in our text of sexual sin. He states that such sin is a violation of to others. God is wronged. Society is wronged. We ourselves are wronged. Sin does that. It brings about there results. Beyond that, it will be punished. God says so. You may think you have gotten by, but be sure your sin will find you out.

Ecclesiates 9:18 states that one sinner destroys much good. There was sin in the camp when Achan took the accursed thing at Jericho. Following that sin, the entire people of Israel suffered a defeat in battle. The poet put it like this:

"There is sin the camp, there is treason today,

Is it in me, is it in me?

There is cause in our ranks for defeat and delay.

Something of garments, something of gold,

Something in young, or something in old,

Some reason why God does His blessings withhold,

Is it, O Lord, in me?

Is in me, is in me, is it, O Lord, in me?"

Could it be that God withholds His blessings from us because some of us are unwilling to repent and confess our sins? It was true then and it could be true now!

Gary Inrig writes about a terrible airline accident that occurred in the Canary Islands in April of 1977. At the small airport at Tenerife two 747s collided killing hundreds: The airport was crowded because the main airport at Las Palmas had been closed due to a bombing. As a result, the 747s had to taxi on the runway rather than on the taxiway. It was a foggy day, and the two pilots could not see one another, but, for some inexplicable reason, the Dutch pilot began his takeoff without clearance from the control tower. Obviously, he thought he was doing the right thing, but he was not. The other plane was in the way, and he was unable to avoid it. As a result, 575 people died.

Every pilot is taught one very basic lesson at the beginning of his training. In an air traffic control zone, you do not do what seems best in your eyes; you do what the control tower tells you to do. That is always true, but it is especially true when the visibility is bad. The reason is, of course, very simple. The controller knows things that you do not know. He has better information and a better perspective to guide a pilot safely to his destination. To act on your own causes disasters.

That is an obvious principle of aviation, but it is also an important principle of life. We live at a time when a thick moral fog has settled upon our society. The old moral landmarks have been obliterated, and no one seems to know the difference between right and wrong. Ethically and morally, the visibility is nil. It is very tempting, at such a time, to fly by the seat of your pants, living by your own standards, doing whatever is right in your own eyes. Scripture gives us a vivid picture of what happens when we follow that method. [Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay by Gary Inrig. Moody, 1979. Pages 281-282.]

IV. Violating Absolute Authority is an Affront to that Authority

In Proverbs 1:7 we read, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline."

In Luke 23:40 the believing thief on the cross asked the profane thief if he did not fear God. He was saying that one should note the authority of God even if he rejects the authority of man. To reject acknowledging the moral and sovereign authority of God, one reveals the rebellion which is at the root of deification of one’s self.

The world fully understands this. Look at John 18:19-22, "Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.' I have spoken openly to the world,' Jesus replied. 'I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said."' When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. "Is this the way you answer the high priest?" he demanded. The official struck Jesus because he thought Jesus had not shown deference to the High Priest. Of course, the true High Priest that day was Jesus. Interesting, isn’t it, that the world knows how to recognize authority in human form, but rejects the greatest of all authorities – the One from whom all authority is given – Jesus, our Lord!

Times have not changed much. We have simply replaced primitive paganism with self-centered humanism, and high places with high tech solutions to our problems; and, we have replaced wooden and stone images of idol worship with images of success; and, ancient sorcerers with modern phone in psychics. In the end, is the same old rejection of God in favor our Satanic and selfish authority.

V. There is Hope for those who have Violated God’s Authority

A. Salvation

First, for those who have never turned to God, there is the hope of salvation. Salvation definitely involves recognition of authority. Look at Romans 10:9-10. The text tells us that one must acknowledge Jesus as Lord, not just Savior! Jesus was raised from the dead and given all authority. When we trust Him as our Savior, we also must trust Him as our Lord. This means submission to Him in all things.

B. Sanctification

Paul mentions sanctification in our text. Sanctification means to be set apart fully and completely for God. The desire of Paul is that we come under His authority so completely that we see ourselves as different from the world. We do not think the way the world thinks. We do not act the way the world acts. We do not live the way the world lives.

Conclusion

What is needed in the church is a new recognition of the authority of our Lord, and a new commitment to live totally for Him. We need to turn from our sins. We need to be cleansed afresh. We need to say what the songwriter said,

I’ll say, ‘Yes, Lord, yes, to your will and to your way!'